A brief story, told at the dire risk of appearing to fashionably equate my own issues with those of others who have been in the news lately.
One of the nice things about working in the north part of downtown and living south of downtown is that, while lunch options are somewhat limited, you get on your southbound afternoon bus before the main slog of Nicollet Mall. This means that you’ll generally get a window seat, and you have the privileged luxury of seeing other people standing in the aisles and making desperate facial expressions as some refuse to move back or otherwise rearrange themselves in a humane and ethical way.
Always move back!
Anywho… this particular day, I boarded by the Central Library and took my window seat in the back half of the bus behind a relatively average-looking fellow on a southbound 17 a little after 5:00 PM and poked away at my phone as my people are wont to do.
A stop later, people start pouring in, and a woman (later important) takes the aisle seat next to me. The fellow in front of me is sitting in the window seat and has a small bag on his aisle seat. Another relatively average-looking fellow boards the bus, behind the woman who sat next to me, and to the shock of this nouveau Minnesotan writer, politely asked the gentleman if he could move his small bag so he could sit down. It was at this point that things began to deteriorate!
Sitting man would not yield. An exchange continued for approximately ten seconds, at which point it become apparent that the sitting man was probably not entirely well. He demanded space for his legs. Some people further back on the bus made a motion for the standing man to come sit on one of the seats further back, and after a few more seconds of argument, he obliged.
Shortly after, the man loudly revealed to no one in particular that he didn’t want anyone sitting next to him because he “was not a faggot.” He repeated this line of reasoning some number of times and moved to sit himself in the aisle seat, his small bag moved to the window seat. He continued to talk as he was shifting, and the woman next to me began to raise objections to his language, telling him to be quiet, etc., and the conversation continued in a way that I felt the need to chime in that, while he “was not a faggot,” I in fact was…
(an observation that, having witnessed these types of things in the past, it’s always some lady who yells at the person to shut the hell up. So, point, those ladies)
… He continued loudly talking (I guess at me?) about faggots and even brought the mafia into it, ostensibly unaware that my grandpa is Sicilian. Perhaps fully considering the implications of angering a member of a powerful imaginary mafia family, he did move into the window seat, with his bag, and at the next stop, a person, unaware of the struggle to free her seat, sat in her seat.
And! To be very clear! I am fine. And I do not mean to mock assumed mental illness. This is not meant to be a terrible Thought Catalog thinkpiece about the pained life of an otherwise privileged twentysomething middle class American. Unpleasant experiences can happen in all sorts of locations to all sorts of people–ten feet away, on the sidewalk, on Nicollet Mall, for example. Or in a gas station parking lot in Elk River. Or wherever.
But you’re in a unique position there, on the back of the crowded bus. There are all kinds of stressors and personal schedules and power dynamics that you don’t often come across. You literally rub elbows with many types of people. Checking some date stamps on some text messages for reference, this incident took place in the span of about twelve minutes, from, say, 6th and Nicollet Mall to I-94 and Nicollet Avenue where I got off. About eleven blocks! On Saturday, I left Northeast Minneapolis with a friend and his car at 4:45 PM, set out for the Rosedale AMC, and we managed to catch the last three previews before a movie that started at 5:00 PM.
Perhaps, if there had not been 20 people standing in the aisle between the back of the bus and the driver, it would have been possible to alert the driver to what was going on and have the situation dealt with. But there were 20 people! In winter coats, carrying their groceries and their work bags and lunch boxes. Probably a stroller in there. Certainly on a bus in front of and behind another bus. We were stuck on a cattlecar, just like the tens of thousands of other Minnesotans taking local bus transit in Downtown Minneapolis, burgeoning focal point of our sexy world-class community-based metropolitan area.
In other news, Northstar riders got to ride for free last week.